Thursday, September 08, 2016

Messianism, Outreach, and the Army

Chabad Rabbi Moshe Havlin - supporter of IDF- Chabad agreement (Arutz 7)
Since the passing of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, R' Menachem Mendel Schneersohn, when you mention Chabad or Lubavitch to most non Chabad Orthodox Jews, one of the first things that comes to mind is their Messianism (Meshichism).

Meshichism with respect to Chabad is the idea that in some way shape or form, they see their late Rebbe as either still alive laying in wait behind the scenes about to reveal himself as the Messiah ;  or that he died but will be resurrected as the Messiah in a 2nd coming. In both cases - at some time in the not too distant future. There are also those that do not think he will return as the Messiah - but allow (and perhaps even hope) for that possibility. I believe that most Lubavitchers fall somewhere in between these extremes – with most leaning to the latter.

There are some that completely reject that idea the way the rest of Orthodoxy does. But I believe they are a relatively small percentage. And there are even less that go completely the other way and have referred to him as God – to be resurrected as the Messiah! (…sound familiar?) But they are even rarer and are completely rejected by all the Chabad leadership.

Why should we care what other people believe? We shouldn’t unless it affects the rest of us in significant ways. There are those like Rabbi Dr. David Berger who believe it does. He has done extensive research on Chabad and worries that these beliefs border on being (if not actual) Avodah Zarah (idol worship).

They worry bacause Lubavitchers are completely integrated into the world of Kashrus. And that could have a disastrous effect on the Kosher food industry. Meat or meat products derived of a Shechitah (ritual slaughtering) done by an idol worshiper is not considered Kosher. And the reality is that the Shochtim for Hashgacha agencies like the OU includes Lubavitchers. It may be true that they are carefully vetted. But who really knows what is on their minds. When there is reason to suspect a problem, shouldn’t that be a concern?

I am personally convinced that such beliefs are not Avodah Zara. As Rav Ahron Soloveichik put it – Their messianic beliefs are Shtus (nonsense) but nowhere near approaching Avodah Zara.

Even Rav Shach whose antipathy towards Chabad was well known did not reject them as observant Jews. An example of that was his support of Rabbi Adin Steinslatz outreach work in Russia. Rabbi Steinsaltz’s connection with Chabad and his admiration for the Rebbe as a foremost leader in Klal Yisroel was well known. Rav Shach also told his own supporters not to reject the legitimacy  Lubavicth Chasidim – that his battles with Chabad were his own and not to be emulated by his followers.

Chabad’s messianic views are not talked about so much these days. Not even among Lubavitchers. Now - 24 years after his death, that talk has all but disappeared. At least in public. Except in Lubavitch headquarters in Crown Heights (770) and in Israel where it seem to be alive and well. Most mainstream Lubavitchers – at least outside of Israel - have resumed focus on the mandate created for them by their late Rebbe to reach out to fellow non observant Jews all over the world. 

I’m told that there are more Lubavitch Shiluchim (emissaries) in more locations throughout the world then there were even when the Rebbe was alive. In some cases they can be found in the remotest of locations where few if any other Orthodox Jews would be willing to live and raise a family. They are virtually the only ones willing to do it. And they do it in spades!

Chabad is the shining example of outreach we should all try to emulate – albeit in our own way.

And now comes yet another thing they have done that should be emulated. In particular by the Charedi world in Israel. It is something I have been advocating for years now. From Arutz Sheva
Leaders of the Chabad Lubavitch movement signed off on a deal with the IDF which would exempt 15 percent of their yeshiva students from the draft, according to Mendy Reisel of Kol Rama.
According to the agreement, 15 percent of Chabad students will get a complete exemption from military service, so they can focus on being emissaries of Chabad. Chabad rabbis and the IDF will jointly vet the students who would receive this exemption. 
This means that 85% of all Lubavitchers will be drafted. The IDF has agreed to compromise with Chabad which can be seen in the details of this agreement. But the bottom line is that the vast majority will be doing their share of army service  – just like the rest of Israel’s citizens.

This is how the rest of the Yeshiva world (...the Chasidic world is an entirely different conversation) should be dealing with this issue. Instead of demanding all yeshiva students be exempt. Especially now that the government has promised to accommodate Charedi Hashakafos. That the IDF has not completely lived up to those promises is a detail to worked out. But in theory they should be doing what Chabad just did. Which is all Yair Lapid was asking for when his party Yesh Atid was in the governing coalition in the least Keneset.

And yet they refuse to do it, vilifying those who support it as anti Torah. Even clearly Orthodox Jews like former Kenesset member, Rabbi Dov Lipman. Leaving aside the Meshichist issue (which is irrelevant) do they now think what Chabad did is anti Torah too?  Neturei Karta now thinks so.

How great it would be if Charedim in Israel followed Chabad’s lead on this issue! That would go far in changing the hearts and minds of secular Jews about Charedim and foster a new climate of respect and cooperation for one another - which would do wonders for outreach.